SAINT LOUIS—A major event signaling the unraveling of the Soviet Empire was the election in 1989 of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a Catholic, as the first non-Communist prime minister of Poland since Poland’s conquest by the Soviet Union.
In a speech to the Polish parliament just before it formally elected him prime minister, the first government official of what was to become central and eastern Europe’s post-Communist order proclaimed: “The history of our country is accelerating.”
Not so long after the Polish premier said these words, statues of Lenin were toppling throughout Russia and Eastern and Central Europe. These symbolic actions were both effects and causes of the deepest stirrings in the souls of the people being liberated from Soviet oppression. Communist parties not only lost their monopoly on power; the new regimes banned Communist parties because of their totalitarian nature, much as postwar Germany had outlawed Nazism.
Were he living today, Mazowiecki might speak again about acceleration, but in the United States and western Europe, the former bastions of Christianity and free government.
As it is a law of physics that a free-falling object accelerates during its descent, there is today a phenomenon of metaphysics in which the culture, the lawful order, and religious foundations of the United States and western Europe are plunging ever faster into the abyss.
In Atheism We Trust
A man worth remembering in these times is Anaxagoras Chaumette. He was a prime architect of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror and the chief leader of the Dechristianization movement in France. In 1792, Chaumette changed his given name to that of a pagan ancient philosopher. He explained, “I was formerly called Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette because my godfather believed in the saints.” Chaumette expelled Christian worship from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris and in 1793 organized the notorious “Festival of Reason,” featuring a prostitute on stage playing the role of the Goddess of Reason.
Four months later, Chaumette, only 30 years old, was purged and guillotined on orders of Maximilien Robespierre three months before it became the latter’s own turn to die under the blade of the Terror the two men had launched.
More than two centuries have passed since Chaumette’s suppression of French Christianity. Political and economic systems have come and gone as though trapped in a revolving door, but French Christianity has never recovered from the deeds of Chaumette and his followers. France is essentially a Godless country.
Au Revoir, Hommes de Dieu
Saint Louis, Missouri (my home) was founded by French colonists from New Orleans in 1764 as a river port of the vast territory called Louisiana. They named the town in honor of the only French monarch ever to be canonized a saint, Louis IX. The French colonial territory, stretching west of the Mississippi to the Rockies, was little affected by the French Revolution because the French crown had transferred it via open treaty to the ownership of the Spanish Empire. Spain later transferred the territory back to France in a secret treaty. Inhabitants became aware of their restoration to French rule only upon losing it again, when Napoleon Bonaparte sold the territory to the United States at the initiative of President Thomas Jefferson.
The city of Saint Louis became a center of education and culture because of the selfless labors of many nuns and priests who were refugees from the religious persecution of the French Revolution. One of these, Rose Philippine Duchesne, was a nun forced to flee her convent when it was destroyed by Chaumette’s Reign of Terror. She joined another group of nuns who became missionaries to Saint Louis, where she founded America’s first free school west of the Mississippi—an institution that educated the children of African Americans and Native Americans side by side with those of French, Spanish, and Anglo-American settlers. She was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II.
As monuments to heroes of western civilization and the American republic have fallen this month to violent mobs across the United States, a government commission in Saint Louis acted last week in secret to remove a fundamental treasure of one of America’s most beautiful public spaces, Tower Grove Park. Without prior announcement, the commission removed the statue of Christopher Columbus—the man who brought the first Christian missionaries to the New World—that had adorned the park for 140 years.
One of Missouri’s leading constitutional lawyers advises that the commission governing the park appears to operate according to an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. In an odd arrangement made after the park was donated to the city by a private philanthropist, the park is administered by a commission appointed by the Missouri State Supreme Court in Jefferson City.
The constitutional question aside, there are legal questions about the park commission’s decision to remove the statue without public hearings or other public notice or discussion.
In any case, it was a show of weakness, displaying no respect for the city’s citizens but abject fear of the orchestrated outsider forces of rioters. The weakness has emboldened the violent extremists to make more demands for dismantling the city’s cultural and religious heritage.
As soon as the Columbus statue was removed, the extremists began a pressure campaign to tear down the city’s namesake symbol, the hilltop equestrian statue of Saint Louis, King of France, in front of the city’s art museum. The radicals also demand that the 256-year-old city itself be stripped of its name.
What would be a fitting new Jacobin name for the erstwhile Gateway to the West?
Mao Zedong City is one obvious choice. Binladen-on-the-Mississippi has a certain charm. “Chaumette, Missouri,” retains the original French flavor while adding a diabolical zest.
Solzhenitsyn Predicted This American Moment
Today’s organized rioters are successors to Chaumette. They are intent upon the total de-Christianization of America. Anyone who doubts this should contemplate the warnings and the historic background presented by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his 1983 Templeton Award Address.
The great Russian writer said the 18th-century Enlightenment’s “subtle poisons permeated the educated classes in the course of the 19th century and opened the path to Marxism. By the time of the revolution, Russian educated circles had virtually lost the faith; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened.”
It was Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn continued,
who drew from the French Revolution and its seething hatred for the Church the lesson that “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true. But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that preached by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot. To achieve its diabolic ends, communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails a destruction of faith and nationhood.
The government leadership of the city of Saint Louis is so weak and hollowed out by decades of one-party Democratic rule and the drift of President Jefferson’s party into atheism, anarchism, and infanticide, that it is helpless to defend the community and our cultural heritage, assuming it wanted to. Whether it would want to is also in doubt.
Day after day across the nation, more monuments to national heroes and Christian saints are destroyed by domestic terrorists or removed by cowardly Democratic political hacks.
Much as the French Revolution devoured its creators, the accelerating breakdown of the United States has brought about the mob destruction of monuments to heroes of the struggle against slavery. Terrorists downed a statue of Ulysses Grant in San Francisco, and the mayor of Boston has remarked insanely that he is considering removing Beantown’s statue of Abraham Lincoln.
Why Lincoln? Was the Great Emancipator insufficiently intersectional?
Why Grant? Was the general who smashed the slave states perhaps—shudder at the thought—transphobic?
The San Francisco barbarians also tore down and vandalized statues of two great heroes of Hispanic civilization. One was Miguel de Cervantes. The other was the founder of the San Francisco Mission, the priest Junípero Serra, the “Apostle of California” whom Pope Francis canonized in the only such ceremony ever performed on U.S. soil.
The politicians who stand by useless while small businesses burn and our civic and religious monuments are destroyed are not innocent. They are the criminals’ accomplices. Their numbers are legion—the entire Democratic Party together with the insufferable Romneyite rump of the Republicans.
What Is a Saint, Anyway?
Chaumette, like his imitators across the United States today, played “Gotcha” with the canonized saints. He professed that he was shocked—shocked!—that they, too, were sinners. This shows ignorance as well as hatred of Christianity.
The only purpose of living as a Christian on this earth is to become a saint for eternity. When Christians recognize saints, they are not asserting that these persons never committed sins or political errors. According to Christianity, saints do not attain salvation and eternity in Heaven because they were perfect or because they transcended all of the flaws of their times and culture. Beginning with Paul, former persecutors of Christianity have become the greatest of saints. Before him, Peter denied Christ three times on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion. Saints are never sinless. They are people who acknowledge their sins and gratefully accept God’s love and mercy. The canonized saints are a tiny, tiny group of the entire Communion of Saints. Canonization is performed to provide role models for all people pursuing the purpose of Christian life.
When the saints get frog-marched out by violent, lawless gangs, all Christians are the targets. When monuments to our national heroes of two centuries and the saints of two millennia are destroyed with impunity, the people of the United States are greatly in danger of becoming enslaved by cultural Marxism.
The violence in our parks and streets is accelerating. The threat to our Constitution, our national sovereignty, our religious freedom, and our very civilization is deadly. We must not be distracted by the rioters’ “political and economic pretensions.”
To achieve their diabolic ends, as Solzhenitsyn warned, the cultural Marxists marauding in our country today are moving “to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails a destruction of faith and nationhood.”
Junípero Serra, Rose Philippine Duchesne, and Louis IX, pray for us.